Daily report for 20 January 1994

3rd Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the International Convention to Combat Desertification


The ever-migrating Working Group I started in the TrusteeshipCouncil and was then elevated in status Thursday afternoon when itconvened in the cavernous halls of the General Assembly. During thecourse of the day the Group discussed Articles 10-15.

ARTICLE 10 -- NATIONAL ACTION PROGRAMMES: Senegal and Iranrequested removal of the brackets in sub-paragraph (f) around"granting [NGOs and grassroots organizations] institutionalrecognition and appropriate assistance." Australia supported Chinaand India on the need to redraft the article for greater clarityand supported reference to the idea of a new partnership, as calledfor in Rio. Norway suggested that the article places adisproportionate emphasis on new national action programmes,disregarding the fact that in some countries, resources would bebetter spent strengthening existing programmes.

ARTICLE 11 -- FIELDS TO BE COVERED IN NATIONAL ACTIONPROGRAMMES: Austria, supported by Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad,Uzbekistan, Mali and Tanzania, all affirmed the importance ofArticle 11 in describing the types of activities that shouldcomprise national action programmes. China, supported by Brazil,the Russian Federation, Greece, the US, Australia, Switzerland andFinland, called for the deletion of the entire article andsuggested instead that the list of 13 fields be placed in an annex.Sweden noted that it was awkward to have a non-mandatory list ofactivities within a legally-binding Convention. Saudi Arabiahighlighted the difficulty in prescribing fields without fullyunderstanding the capacities of the affected countries. Kenyaraised fears that by relegating this article to an annex, it wouldminimize the important commitments to combat desertification thatwere made in Geneva and Nairobi. The World Bank pointed out that:all donors and many other parties have expressed frustration at thenumber of overlapping environmental strategy-making exercises inexistence; the draft text is unclear; and that the Conventionshould reflect existing on-going environmental action plans.

ARTICLES 12 AND 13 -- SUB-REGIONAL AND REGIONAL ACTIONPLANS: These two articles were considered together after manydelegations, including Brazil, Australia, Greece (on behalf of theEU), the US, Chile, Mexico and Japan supported merging them. Themerge was proposed to avoid the proliferation of action plans.Brazil also noted that some of the sub-paragraphs in 12 deal withissues specific to one region or sub-region (Africa). China, Japan,and the US supported moving the sub-paragraphs in 12 (suggestedmeasures for sub-regional action plans) to a technical or regionalannex. Burkina Faso, Eritrea and Malawi did not support the mergeas they felt that both regional and sub-regional action programmesare useful. Senegal, Benin, Gambia, C“te D'Ivoire and Cape Verde,however, supported the merge and Senegal also noted that the roleof NGOs should be enshrined here. Turkey commented that the issueof shared resources, as expressed in 12(c), should not be left tomultilateral agreements but negotiated between concerned parties.

ARTICLE 14 -- MEASURES IN ACTION PROGRAMMES TO MITIGATE THEEFFECTS OF DROUGHT: This article, which lists four types ofmeasures to be undertaken to mitigate the effects of drought, wasbracketed. Brazil, Gambia, Iran and most developing countriesadvocated removal of the brackets and retention of the article.Kenya and Senegal commented that removal of this paragraph would"eviscerate" the entire Convention. Greece, on behalf of the EU,noted that this Convention should focus on desertification and thatthe measures in the four sub-paragraphs here are already in Article11. The US proposed moving this article to a technical annex.Australia, supported by Canada, Sweden and Norway, said that theConvention should reflect an anticipatory approach that seeks to"manage for drought" rather than deal with its effects. Australiaalso suggested merging elements of this article into the articleson national action programmes. Mali and Senegal commented, however,that in Africa drought is a permanent phenomenon and governmentscannot always act in an anticipatory manner. Chile suggested thatthe preventive steps should be emphasized.

ARTICLE 15 -- ASSISTANCE IN THE ELABORATION AND IMPLEMENTATIONOF ACTION PROGRAMMES: This article states that developedcountry Parties and other Parties in a position to provideassistance shall support (financially and technically) theelaboration and implementation of action programmes. Malaysia,supported by India, Peru, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Iran, wanted todelete the phrase "other Parties in a position to provideassistance," in accordance with the comments made on Article 6 onWednesday. Brazil added this Convention should not be using oldterms like "assistance," but rather concepts such as partnershipand cooperation. Sweden agreed with the notion of partnership, butasked Brazil why he denies other countries "in a position toprovide assistance" from participating in this partnership. Greece,supported by Norway and the US, suggested deleting this article andincorporating these elements in Articles 22 and 23 on financialresources. Japan added that, according to this article, donorcountries bear the responsibility for action programmes. Kenya,supported by Malaysia and Cameroon, pointed out that every timefinancial assistance is mentioned the square brackets are broughtout. They warned against continuing this negative trend.


ARTICLE 24 -- CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES: Working Group IIcontinued its reading of Article 24, which establishes theConference of the Parties.

Paragraph 4 concerns the timing of COP meetings. Botswanasuggested that the COP meet every two years in the interest of costsavings. Sweden proposed deletion of the reference to the interimsecretariat convening the first session of the COP since Article 25provides for a permanent secretariat, which she assumed wouldundertake this function. The secretariat noted that the COP isempowered to set up the secretariat. As such, it will be theresponsibility of the interim secretariat to convene the COP'sfirst session since the permanent secretariat will not yet exist.

Paragraph 5 governs extraordinary sessions of the COP.Botswana said that it should specify how and by whom decisions toconvene these sessions should be made.

Paragraph 6 states that the COP shall elect its own Bureauwith adequate representation from affected African countries.Greece, supported by China and Australia, called for the deletionof the paragraph suggesting it would be better dealt with in therules of procedure. Botswana called for retention of the paragraph,noting the importance of the special criteria. The UK said thatmost environmental treaties provide for the size and composition ofthe Bureau to be addressed in the rules of procedure. He added thatit would be premature to set the scope and membership at this pointwithout first knowing how many signatories there will be. Beninproposed that if this matter is deferred to the rules of procedure,then the criteria outlined in paragraph 6 must be specified in therules of procedure.

Paragraph 7 defines who may attend COP sessions asobservers. There were no comments.

ARTICLE 25 -- SECRETARIAT: Article 25 outlines the functionsof the secretariat. Benin suggested changing the title to"Permanent Secretariat." Greece asked that the proposal bebracketed.

Sub-Paragraphs 2(a) and 2(b) refer to the functions of thesecretariat in arranging COP sessions and in compiling andtransmitting reports to it. There was no substantive debate.

Sub-Paragraph 2(c) refers to the secretariat's role infacilitating assistance to Parties needing assistance in thecompilation and communication of information. The INCD Secretariatclarified that the type of assistance envisaged is of a technicalnature. Sweden suggested brackets since the exact wording will belinked to the general discussion on secretariat functions andfinancing. Brazil suggested substituting "Parties needingassistance" for "affected developing countries." The INCDSecretariat noted that agreement could not be reached on this pointuntil the conclusion of discussions on Article 1.

Sub-Paragraph 2(d) refers to the secretariat'sresponsibility to report on its activities. There was nosubstantive debate.

Sub-Paragraph 2(e) calls for coordination between thedesertification secretariat and the secretariats of otherconventions. Switzerland, supported by Tunisia, noted that thissub-paragraph is ambiguous and that the secretariat cannot bemandated to coordinate with other bodies.

Sub-Paragraph 2(f) authorizes the secretariat to enter intothe necessary administrative arrangements to discharge itsresponsibilities. There were no comments.

Sub-Paragraph 2(g) states that the secretariat will performother functions as specified by the Convention and as determined bythe COP. There was some debate regarding the words "othersecretariat functions." The UK noted that only the COP candetermine the scope of its functions.

Paragraph 3 states that the COP shall designate a permanentsecretariat at its first session. Canada, supported by Austria andthe Netherlands, highlighted the importance of using expertise andresources within existing institutions, as opposed to establishinga new one, and proposed that UNEP should be considered in thisregard. Switzerland pointed out that the head of the secretariat,once appointed, should be able to decide on the location of thesecretariat, as was the case with the Biodiversity Convention. Hewarned that if UNEP is chosen as the secretariat, further actionwould have to be undertaken with regard to the relationship betweenUNEP's Governing Council and the Conference of the Parties. Egyptsupported the establishment of an independent secretariat.Botswana, Morocco, Bangladesh, Tanzania and Mauritania allconcurred.

Botswana noted that placing the secretariat in an existinginstitution may prove to be more costly. Spain and the EU proposedallowing the COP to decide on the location of the secretariat.However, they differed with regard to placing the secretariat underan existing institution and Spain offered to host the secretariat.Norway, the UK, Austria, France and the US supported the view ofthe EU and said that the suggestion does not prejudge theinstitution or location. The WMO also reminded delegates of theiroriginal offer to host it.

ARTICLE 26 -- SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL COUNCIL: Thisarticle generated heated debate. Greece, on behalf of the EU,stated that the institution is unnecessary in light of the costsinvolved as existing global networks are sufficient. Botswana, onbehalf of the African Group, supported by the US, said that theinstitution is necessary to provide advice to the COP. Benin saidthis was consistent with other international environmentalinstruments. Norway, Sweden, France and the UK agreed with Greece.

Egypt expressed surprise that a proposal dealing with an issueaffecting the poor is dismissed on the basis of cost. He questionedthe rationale for the expensive scientific and technologicalinvestment in the Convention on Climate Change, through the IPCC,an issue that is primarily of interest to the rich. In an effort toachieve consensus he proposed new text. The new title would be"Scientific and Technological Counsel/Advice." The text would read:"The Conference of the Parties shall in its first session considermeans and ways of receiving independent advice on scientific andtechnological matters including: (i) gaps in knowledge that need tobe addressed and technological advances that need to be promotedunder the requirement of Article 19 of the Convention, and (ii)evaluation of information on desertification as required by Article18 of the Convention and on monitoring implementation of theConvention and its annexes." The EU and other Northern delegatesexpressed interest in this new proposal. Although the entireArticle was put in brackets, the African Group pushed for aparagraph-by-paragraph reading. Only Southern countries madeamendments, with Israel intervening twice and Sweden once.


WORKING GROUP I: Working Group I will migrate back toConference Room 1 where heat has been "guaranteed." Delegates willbegin discussion on Article 16, "Coordination in the elaborationand implementation of action programmes." The Chair is concernedthat the Group is now two days behind schedule and hopes thatprogress can be made today. Other articles that may be discussedtoday are 21 (capacity building, education and public awareness),22 (financial resources) and 23 (financial mechanisms).

WORKING GROUP II: The Working Group will continuediscussions on Institutions -- Article 27, "Evaluation andMonitoring Centre," and thereafter, procedural matters.

IN THE CORRIDORS: Look for copies of the draft regionalannex for Africa, prepared by the African Group, to be circulatedtoday. Discussion on the regional instrument for Africa isscheduled to begin in Working Group II next week. In the meantime,members of the Latin American and Caribbean Group have also heldpreliminary discussions on their own regional annex. A technicalpreparatory meeting of the National Conference and Latin AmericanSeminar on Desertification, which met in Brasilia in December,began to elaborate elements of this regional annex. Informalconsultations toward this end will continue.


National governments
Negotiating blocs
African Group
European Union
Latin American and Caribbean Group
Non-state coalitions